Berryville School Board Zone 2 candidates quizzed

Friday, September 14, 2012

BERRYVILLE -- Only two Berryville School Board seats are contested this year. Of these, the Zone 1 seat is the most hotly contested, with three candidates. These include incumbent Vonda Bailey and newcomers Darrell Stidham and Jennifer McCall.

In Zone Two, incumbent Shannon Hill will run against Berryville farmer Todd Howard.

Polls will be open for early voting from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays through Monday, Sept. 17, at the Berryville courthouse. Election day will be Tuesday, Sept. 18, with polls open from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

For this Q&A, each candidate was given the same set of questions, and asked to restrict each answer to 100 words. Responses were received by email and have received only minor editing. The contenders are presented alphabetically. A short biography is followed by the questions and answers.

TODD HOWARD

Todd Howard, 51, has lived in Berryville all his life. "I was actually born in the original Berryville Hospital located behind Nelson's Funeral Home," he said. Howard graduated from Berryville High School in 1979 and later studied automotive mechanics and heavy equipment repair at Twin Lakes Vocational Technical School, in Harrison.

"Since the age of 18, I have raised poultry and cattle on our family farm north of Berryville," Howard said. "I've grown turkeys for 33 years, managed cattle, produced hay, repaired heavy equipment -- all the related farming tasks."

Howard's wife, Cheryl, teaches home economics. They have been married for 30 years and have three children -- Emily, Jason, and Ashley. All three have either graduated from or are attending college.

QUESTION: What are your reasons for running?

HOWARD: "I want to be the school board member that anyone feels they can present their opinion to.

"I want to be able to be a "voice" on the school board that will speak up and ask questions. For several years, items have been placed before the board and so many issues passed without question. Many people in the community -- teachers, parents, and students -- have felt like they could not approach board members or any of the administrators in the school without repercussions."

If elected, what your priorities and goals be?

HOWARD: "The top priority has to be that the decisions being made are going to benefit the educational standards of our children, not just be a facility improvement. It has to actually benefit their learning.

"My next priority is for our teachers. In the past three years we have lost a tremendous number of teachers and there continues to be constant turnover. I want this to be a school where our teachers are treated with respect, receive recognition and benefits, and want to work and retire here, not one where we are trying to run people off."

Do you have any personal ties to the school district, such as children in school and/or relatives or close friends who work for the school district, or have you worked or volunteered there yourself?

HOWARD: "I have deep personal ties. This is my home. Both my wife and I graduated from Berryville in 1979, and my wife has worked there as the home economics teacher for 28 years. Most importantly, we chose to send our children to Berryville School and stay in this community because we believed in the morals, ethics, and educational standards provided by the teachers. We continue to choose to stay and try to impact our community in a positive way, hoping to continue to make this a place our children will want to return to raise families."

How do you feel about public participation at school board meetings? Should the public be allowed to ask questions or give a response during each topic's discussion or be confined only to the public comment portion of a meeting?

HOWARD: "I attended several board meetings. Those in attendance were not even able to hear any discussions taking place due to the superintendent and board members not speaking into the microphones on stage. A lack of seriousness was evident -- laughter on stage, little discussion, and unanimous votes with no questions took place. The public is completely ignored. Yes, I do believe the public should be allowed to ask questions. The agenda has to be followed in a timely manner, but it is our responsibility at a public meeting to make certain the opportunity is there to clarify information."

What is the most admirable thing about the school district to you? What is the least admirable, and something you believe should change?

HOWARD: "The most admirable thing about the Berryville School District is its heritage. We have a rich history here at Berryville that we can share with our students. With the turnover we have seen in the past four years, the emphasis on local history and community has not been a focus. We have a tremendous number of alumni still in our area. Our community has given us so much. I think it is time our school district finds some projects to help give back to our community."

SHANNON LEE HILL

Shannon Lee Hill, 41, has served on the Berryville School Board for five years, by appointment and then by election.

Originally from Louisiana, she has lived in Carroll County for 14 years. Hill works part-time in the federally-funded program for children of migrant families. A 1989 high school graduate, she attended the University of Arkansas and Louisiana Technical College, and is one quarter away from finishing a Bachelors of Arts in education.

Hill and her husband, Wade, have three children. She coaches softball at the community center, worked with fifth and sixth grade girls in the AWANA program and is active in Freeman Heights Baptist Church.

QUESTION: Why are you running for re-election?

HILL: "Being on the Berryville School board is another way to give back to my community and become more involved with my children's lives through school."

What would your priorities and goals be, if re-elected?

HILL: "My priority and goals for Berryville School District are to provide opportunities for all students to succeed academically, physically and emotionally."

Do you have any personal ties to the school district, such as children in school and/or relatives or close friends who work for the school district, or have you worked or volunteered there yourself?

HILL: "I have three children in Berryville Public Schools. Emma is in the ninth grade. Jake is in the sixth grade, and Lora Grace is in the fourth grade. I've volunteered and continue to volunteer at school. You may find me in the concession stand on a Friday night, copying papers for teachers on a Monday morning or in a kitchen somewhere cooking in appreciation for faculty and staff.

How do you feel about public participation at school board meetings? Should the public be allowed to ask questions or give a response during each topic's discussion or be confined only to the public comment portion of a meeting?

HILL: "Everyone is encouraged and welcome to attend board meetings. In Berryville School District we have a policy in place for those who would like to approach the board."

What is the most admirable thing about the school district to you? What is the least admirable, and something you believe should change?

HILL: "The high standards that are expected of staff and students. And the variety of opportunities given to students inside and outside of the classroom. Least admirable: Parental involvement. Work on ways to bridge the gap of communication between parents, community and our school."

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: